Cells of the cancer stopped multiplying and growing when targeted with cannabinoids, the active ingredient in the drug, a new study shows.
Researchers believe that the findings could allow them to create drugs to treat the disease containing these chemicals.
However, they warn that the research does not suggest that using cannabis could have the same effects.
The drug has also been linked to other health problems including depression and a possible increased risk of lung cancer.
Dr Lesley Walker, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is interesting research which opens a new avenue to explore potential drug targets but it is at a very early stage – it absolutely isn’t the case that men might be able to fight prostate cancer by smoking cannabis.”
She added: “This research suggest that prostate cancer cells might stop growing if they are treated with chemicals found in cannabis but more work needs to be done to explore the potential of the cannabinoids in treatment.”
Prof Ines Diaz-Laviada, from the University of Alcala in Madrid, who led the study, said: “Our research shows that there are areas on prostate cancer cells which can recognise and talk to chemicals found in cannabis called cannabinoids.
“These chemicals can stop the division and growth of prostate cancer cells and could become a target for new research into potential drugs to treat prostate cancer.”
Some prostate cancer cells carry receptors, to which cannabinoids can become attached.
When they were attached scientists found that the chemicals could stop the cells multiplying, according to the findings, published in the British Journal of Cancer.
Prostate cancer affects more than 34,000 men in Britain every year, and accounts for one in four of all new cancers diagnosed in men.
Scientists have previously found that cannabinoids could be useful in helping to relieve the symptoms of a painful bowel condition, inflammatory bowel disease.
By Kate Devlin
August 19, 2009